After way too many months of winter in Ohio, we’re overjoyed when summer weather finally arrives. Of course, tagging along with the warmer weather are a variety of insects who want to eat you. If you’re outside after dusk, your options for protection are limited. You can wear pants and long-sleeves (we just did that for six months, so no thanks). You can apply some type of insect repellent. Or just give up and resign yourself to a night of itching. Now, thanks to this homemade bug spray, I feel comfortable spraying myself and the kids, and I know it works!
DEET is the most commonly used ingredient in commercial insect repellents. While no one can argue its effectiveness, it’s a synthetic chemical that carries with it some concern. Studies have shown some potential for negative neurological impacts (though other studies have shown there’s no risk, depending on whose studies you want to believe), and it can pass through your skin and be absorbed into the bloodstream.
Of course, you’re free to use whatever you want, but when something comes with warnings telling me not to apply under clothing, not apply to broken skin, not spray indoors, wash off as soon as I come back inside, and basically keep out of reach of children, it does catch my attention a bit.
Fortunately, there are a number of natural alternatives to DEET that have been shown to be just as effective in repelling the nasties that want to suck your blood. (Makes sense, as plants have evolved many different mechanisms over the years to keep the bugs away.) The most potent sources of these plant compounds are found in essential oils, which are basically the distillation and concentration of all those powerful components.
There are a number of different essential oils that are great insect repellents, but among the best are lemon eucalyptus, lemongrass, citronella, peppermint, tea tree, and geranium. Vanilla extract, strangely enough, also works well. In a pinch, I’ll even grab a handful of catnip leaves and rub them on my arms and legs.
Homemade Bug Spray That Works!
To make your own homemade bug spray, you can use one or a combination of the oils mentioned above.
Add a little vodka (preservative and has repellent properties), glycerin or another carrier oil like jojoba or almond (moisturizing and helps the essential oils last longer on your skin), and water to a small glass bottle, and you’ve got yourself an easy, effective homemade bug spray.
And since I’ll never recommend something that I wouldn’t use for myself, I made sure to test it. The first time I used it I sprayed some on one arm and nothing on the other. Going about my usual business outside, I noticed mosquitoes definitely favored the unsprayed arm. I even held them both out as sacrificial offerings, and found the mosquitoes were equally attracted until they got close. When they were about to land on the sprayed arm, they immediately flew off to find greener pastures.
Subsequent results have backed up the initial findings, although I’m done spraying only half of my body as a test. If it’s a really muggy afternoon or evening and I’m sweating a lot while I work, I’ll reapply every couple hours, but it should last for a while in normal conditions.
If you want a more natural approach to keeping the bugs from biting, give this homemade bug spray a try!